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After unloading their baggage, Hiro and the others left Rosa to take care of the rest and headed for the Spirit Temple in the east district. As on Hiro’s previous visit, the east street was still filled with adventurers and people who looked like mercenaries.
On the way, they passed between a guardhouse and an inn and walked down an alleyway shrouded in darkness. As they do so, they are greeted by the beautiful white glow of the Spirit Temple, lit up by light pouring down from the sky. In the courtyard, there were children happily running around and playing.
“It’s beautiful! There is so much nature!”
Liz exclaimed happily.
“You’ve never been here before?”
Hiro tilted his head and asked, and Liz opened her mouth to speak.
“I tried to escape the palace a few times, but Rosa-aneesama kept a close eye on me. And I couldn’t come here by myself because it wasn’t so safe back then.”
And I didn’t have the “Flame Emperor” yet. Liz added and lay down on the lawn.
“I see. Then it would be best if you had fun today. I’m sure the children will welcome you.”
Then Hiro looked back behind him at the two figures.
“Hi-Hiro-sama. Can I stay here now? As expected, I’m completely exhausted…”
The man who had been carrying a large amount of baggage said and sat down on the ground.
His name is Munin. He has brown skin, and his face is covered with scars. Despite his appearance, he has an aloof personality and lacks a sense of urgency ― yet when he was in the Liberation Army, he was active as one of Ghada’s right-hand men, and his sword skills are solid, and his abilities are impeccable.
“Don’t you dare say anything pathetic! Do not show your shamelessness in front of the wise elder brother!”
Hugin, Munin’s determined younger sister, was the one who showed her anger. In the Liberation Army, she was guarding and taking care of Mirue, the girl who was the leader of the slaves.
She specializes in archery and wears light equipment to keep herself mobile, but she has made special modifications to her equipment to make it more agile. She is a strong woman, but her muscularity gives her a strong sense of healthy beauty rather than sexuality.
“I’m tired, too! Though I took the job lightly, it was harder than I expected! But I did my best without complaining! But this brother, this brother is!”
“Stop kicking an unarmed man! I didn’t raise you to be such a brutal girl!”
Hiro smiled wryly at the usual sibling bickering.
The burlap sack they had lowered to the ground contained sweets and toys. They were meant to be distributed to the war orphans taken in by the Spirit Temple. The amount of food for dozens of people is not light, and it’s quite a distance from the Imperial Palace to here. No matter how well trained they were, it must have been hard.
With such a large load, even Hiro initially tried to use a carriage.
“Hehe, what do you think we are, Hiro-sama? This is the time to use us for heavy work! There’s no need to use a carriage for this kind of load. It’s a waste of money!”
“There’s no problem with this level, just like on the right. So please take me with you, too!”
Said the sibling while bowed their heads and pleading to Hiro. It’s a good idea to bring them along as well since it feels bad to reject them outright…
When he looked at them again, he could see the fatigue on their faces.
“Um… the two of you must be tired, so I’ll take care of the rest.”
After that, Hugin put the baggage on the ground and rushed to Hiro in a panic.
“No, W-we didn’t mean it like that! We’re not tired at all! We still have plenty of energy left that we can even fly now!”
Hiro didn’t understand what she meant, but that seemed to be the case.
Then Munin laughed in response to her sister.
“You can’t be tough on your beloved Hiro-sama, can you?”
“Huh? What are you saying all of a sudden? Wise elder brother is important, but it’s not about that, no, but it’s also about that a little bit ― Wait, what do you want me to say?”
“I told you to stop kicking my ass! Your brother’s ass is already at its limit!”
When he was relieved since they seemed to be more energetic than he expected, Hiro took his eyes off the noisy two and looked forward.
“No one can escape from you with those legs!”
“You have great legs, Onee-chan!”
The appearance of Liz playing with the children is reflected in his vision.
“…You get along with them so fast.”
As Hiro was amazed by Liz’s adaptability, he noticed a tug on the hem of his cloak.
“Hey, hey, Onii-chan.”
There stood a young girl who looked familiar, although her face was dirty from playing in the dirt. It was the girl who Aura had patted on the head the last time Hiro visited here.
“Hmm? What can I do for you?”
“Oh… she couldn’t come because she was busy today.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.”
Seeing the girl so blatantly depressed, Hiro’s conscience ached, and he patted her on the head. Then he raised his hand and pointed his thumb behind his back.
“Onii-san and Onee-san over there will give you sweets and toys.”
The girl’s eyes lit up with joy, and she jumped up and down on the spot with her hands in the air.
“Yes. You can take it and ― ah… she left already.”
The girl ran away without hearing Hiro’s last words.
“Oppai-neechan, give me some sweets!”
“Hii, a girl covered in dirt attacked me!”
Hugin screamed as she was suddenly hugged.
“Please give me some sweets. Please!”
“I’ll give it to you; I’ll give it to you! So stop trying to take off my clothes! Where did you learn that technique?”
“Hoho, that’s a bonus.”
“Don’t you fucking smile at me!”
Hugin, who exposed her true colors, kicked Munin’s butt.
And so, perhaps because they hear the words sweets from the girl, a large number of children rushed to Hugin’s side.
“W-what’s going on?”
“Hyii, it’s too much work dealing with just a little girl! Don’t come over here!”
Despite their words, the children were not treated roughly. In the past, Hugin and Munin were in a similar situation as the children.
“Give me some sweets too!”
For some reason, a red-haired girl was hugging Hugin, but it must have been an illusion. Hiro pretended he hadn’t seen her and stepped inside the temple.
In contrast to the outside, the inside was quiet. When he breathed, the clean air filled his lungs. Hiro looked around, feeling a pleasant sensation of being cleansed inside his body.
There were a few people here and there in the temple, praying with their overlapping hands on the pedestal of the Spirit King. In one corner, there was a shrine maiden who was watching over the worshippers.
The shrine maiden seemed to have noticed Hiro and quietly approached him, skimming across the floor.
“Your Highness, Hiro. Thank you for taking the trouble to come.”
“I apologize for the intrusion. I thought I’d give you this…”
Hiro dug into his pockets and snatched up a pouch.
“Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.”
The shrine maiden wrapped the pouch carefully in her hands. The pouch clinked. It was the sound of the gold and silver coins inside rubbing against each other.
The main source of income for the Spirit Temple is donations from the worshippers ― the rest is subsidies from the Great Grantz Empire and the small country of Baum. However, these are all for the temple’s upkeep and do not include food for the children. Therefore, the shrine maiden had to cut back on her own salary to pay for the children’s expenses, and when Hiro learned that she could not afford to do so, he decided to donate money regularly.
“As Princess Shrine Maiden said, you are a very noble person.”
The shrine maiden moistened her eyes and squeezed Hiro’s hand as if to say she was impressed.
“May the blessings of the Spirit King be upon you, Your Highness Hiro――.”
Hiro smiled at the shrine maiden as she began to pray and then told her why he had come here.
“Have you received any letters from the Princess Shrine Maiden?”
Hiro had sent a letter to the Princess Shrine Maiden before leaving the Berg Fortress, and he was supposed to receive a reply here. The shrine maiden tilted her head, fell silent, and then nodded repeatedly with a small clap of her hands.
“Yes, yes, there is indeed a letter for you. The spirit knight brought it here last night.”
The shrine maiden let go of Hiro’s hand and disappeared somewhere, returning with a gleaming envelope in her hand.
“This is it. Don’t worry; I haven’t read what’s inside.”
“It’s okay. The contents are nothing to worry about.”
How did Ghada appear on the central continent? The southern archipelago was blocked by raging waves, making it impossible to enter or leave. If he were an ordinary person, he would have died. However, he was washed up alive onto the Principality of Lichtine. He didn’t seem to know what was going on, and Hiro had relied on Princess Shrine Maiden’s abilities to help him solve the mystery.
“Hopefully, my prediction will be wrong…”
If it were a being outside the frame of reference that couldn’t be recognized, it would be a matter beyond the Princess Shrine Maiden’s control. With that in mind, Hiro ripped open the seal and looked at the letter inside.
Unfortunately, as expected ― it could not be detected. The letter was short and to the point.
“As expected, she could not detect it. Still, if they can fool her eyes, it’s going to be troublesome.”
Princess Shrine Maiden has a special eye. It is one of the three most secret eyes in the world and is known as the “Clairvoyant Eye.” Each generation of Princess Shrine Maiden inherits the ability from the previous generation through a special ritual.
However, even Hiro is not aware of the ritual contents, as it is kept secret from the public.
“I think I should go to the Spirit King Temple soon.”
It would be better to talk to the Princess Shrine Maiden in person so that they could examine it in more detail.
Hiro put the letter in his pocket and bowed to the shrine maiden.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have to return to the palace soon.”
“Ara, is that so? Wouldn’t you at least like some tea?”
“No, I have people waiting for me outside.”
“I see… So, tea will have to wait until another time.”
Saying goodbye to the disappointed shrine maiden, Hiro went outside again.
In the courtyard, children were playing with the toys that had been handed out ― away from them, Liz and the others were sitting down as if they were tired of playing. Hiro walked up to them and called out.
“Did you finish handing them out?”
“Yes, they all seem to have been well received.”
“Then let’s go back to the palace. Hugin, Munin, is it okay with you?”
“Yes! I can always be ready to run!”
“No, you don’t have to run. There is still plenty of time.”
Hiro smiled cheerfully at Hugin, who, unlike her brother, gave him a cheerful reply.